The Breeders’ Cup Classic is the richest race in North America and as the top contenders make their way through the final tune-up runs, we ask the question, ‘Can anyone beat Flightline?’
The son of Tapit has been whispered about in hushed tones for the past two years. Having been lightly raced as a three-year-old, plenty of racing lovers wondered whether he would ever realise that incredible potential. An immense performance at the Met Mile where he took down Speaker’s Corner before turning on the afterburners down the stretch thrust him to the top of the betting markets for the BC Classic ahead of Life is Good.
His next race however was on a different level as that 126 Beyer for his romp at the Pacific Classic in September was just flat-out jaw-dropping. It was one of the most breathtaking performances in many a year and cemented his place as the top older horse on the circuit. That victory saw his odds for the Classic drop to 8/13 but even that looks like a good price considering how far behind his rivals are.
I’ve always been a Life is Good fan. I remember watching his debut at Del Mar and thinking he had every chance on the start of the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Victories at the Sham and San Felipe saw him lead the pools before injury kept him away from Churchill Downs. After the Bob Baffert suspension, his connections moved him across the country to Todd Pletcher’s stable and his form continued. With five Grade I victories to his name, in any typical year he would be the top choice but a 97 Beyer in the slop in the Woodward at the weekend has created more questions than answers. At 6/1 this Into Mischief colt is currently the third choice with Betfred.
The horse between them is the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes runner-up Epicenter. Widely seen as the best third-year-old despite failing to win any leg of the Triple Crown, the Steve Asmussen trained horse took out a slightly disappointing Travers field to put him very much in play to win the Eclipse Award for top three-year-old male horse. Personally speaking though, I don’t see him in the class of either of the other two.
Speaking of being runner-up at the Kentucky Derby, the winner that day was the 80/1 outsider Rich Strike who many thought was a one-hit wonder. A strong ride at the Lukas Classic Stakes however when he went stride for stride with Hot Rod Charlie down the stretch has opened eyes somewhat. At 20/1 and listed as a possible rather than a probable, he isn’t a great play but should this horse be sent to Keeneland to race for the richest prize on the track in North America, don’t be surprised if a top-three finish is more than plausible.
Trainer Bob Baffert is likely to have three to call upon with Defunded now expected to run having earned entry into the race with his ‘Win and You’re In’ victory in the Grade I Awesome Again Stakes at the weekend. Country Grammar and Taiba are also set to go and as we’ve seen in the past, if Bobby B has multiple entries, tactics can prove invaluable.
Having written all that though, Flightline is on a different level and as long as he gets a clean break and gets a good trip, that 8/13 looks very tasty.